LIfeboat crew trapped at sea by storm

A LIFEBOAT crew was forced to remain at sea off Fairlight for two hours during this week’s storms and gales.

The crew launched the Hastings all-weather lifeboat Sealink Endeavour on Tuesday evening at the request of Dover Coastguard following three seperate reports of red flares seen between Fairlight and Rock-a-Nore.

The lifeboat conducted a search for the possible source of the flares. After an hour’s search nothing was found and, once the original informants had been contacted, coastguard officers decided the flares had been set off from the land and there was no emergency.

The lifeboat was stood down and began to return to Hastings. However, with the tide low and with the wind speed increasing to gale force 9, it was decided that it would be too dangerous for the lifeboat to come ashore.

Eventually it was decided the lifeboat would stay afloat in the gale a mile off-shore, and wait for the tide to come in and make more water on the beach. This meant an uncomfortable two more hours at sea for the lifeboat and its volunteer crew.

Eventually, the shore crew felt there was enough water to attempt a recovery and the lifeboat finally came ashore just before midnight. The boat’s approach was good and it hit the beach perfectly. However, at that moment an unlucky wave pitched the boat side on in the breaking surf and there was an anxious few seconds until the recovery cable was attached, thus enabling the lifeboat to be pulled clear of the surf, with everyone being relieved that the boat and it’s crew were safely ashore.

Steve Warne, coxswain of Hastings RNLI lifeboat, said: “These were very unusual conditions - in all my years of lifeboating I have never had to sit off-shore before and wait out a storm like that.

“Obviously as lifeboat crew we are trained for all manner of rough weather and difficult conditions, but the combination of extremely rough weather and low tide meant we took the precaution of waiting until was clearly safe to return to the station.”

Despite being cold and tired, the lifeboat crew were all safely returned and were released from service.